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University of California-Berkeley

Superfund Research Program

Toxic Substances in the Environment

Center Director: Martyn T. Smith
Grant Number: P42ES004705
Funding Period: 1987-2027
View this project in the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tools (RePORT)

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Summary (2022-2027)

The University of California (UC) at Berkeley Superfund Research Program (SRP) center, in consultation with the center’s key stakeholders and advisory boards, has identified six complex and intractable problems associated with hazardous waste sites, namely how to: 1) better assess risks to pregnant women, the fetus, and young children; 2) protect disadvantaged communities; 3) understand the totality of chemicals communities are exposed to; 4) account for interactions between mixtures of chemicals; 5) perform on site in situ remediation without depleting valuable resources or transporting contaminated soil to other locations; and, 6) destroy persistent chemicals that are resistant to remediation. Four interactive projects (two biomedical and two engineering) and four required cores address these six problems through original research. Their research and community engagement efforts aim to provide information and tools that will help solve these complex problems associated with Superfund contaminants and address the four mandates of the Superfund Research Program.

The interdisciplinary projects and cores of the UC Berkeley Center all address one or more of the four mandates as applied to chemicals high on Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry’s Superfund priority list, of importance to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s programs, and of concern to other stakeholders, including arsenic, chromium and other metals, PFAS, and other halogenated contaminants. Their overall goal is to improve the remediation and understanding of the health effects of mixtures of Superfund contaminants. To achieve this, the researchers are taking a systems approach, a problem-solving paradigm grounded in public health concepts. Together with stakeholders, they collectively form an understanding of some of the issues they face and create a bidirectional dialogue between the two parties. The center personnel perform basic research that informs action, learning, and refining as they go. This “systems” approach is central to improving public health. It is an approach that has been widely used in many public health settings and will be used as the central paradigm within their center. Biomedical projects, Characterization of Drinking Water Contaminants and Perinatal Health Effects in Disadvantaged Communities and Influence of Exposure to a Mixture of PFAS and Metals on the Developing Immune System, with the Data Management and Analysis Core (DMAC) study the effects of mixtures of contaminants on perinatal outcomes and the developing immune system. Engineering projects, In Situ Destruction of Halogenated Superfund Contaminants with Biological Radical Reactions and In Situ Destruction of Halogenated Superfund Contaminants With Persulfate-Generated Radicals, develop a complementary treatment approach consisting of in situ chemical treatment in combination with biological radical systems to remediate a broad range of PFAS and other highly persistent halogenated pollutants.

With the Administrative Core, they also assess the fate of the transformation products generated by the treatment process and their potential for toxicity. The Community Engagement Core, in collaboration with the Characterization of Drinking Water Contaminants and Perinatal Health Effects in Disadvantaged Communities project, In situ Destruction of Halogenated Superfund Contaminants with Persulfate-Generated Radicals project, and the DMAC address drinking water quality problems in California that exist despite sophisticated statewide water infrastructure and federal water quality laws. The DMAC manages, store and share data from all projects and cores using FAIR guidelines and assist in the biostatistical analysis of all project-generated data. The Research Experience and Training Coordination Core (RETCC) provides all trainees with trans-disciplinary education, and training in environmental health, toxicology and environmental engineering.

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